PRS Factories

Paul Reed Smith Guitars, commonly known as PRS, stands as one of the guitar world’s major success stories of the last few decades. PRS guitars are famed for their exceptional craftsmanship, distinctive birds inlay, and tonal versatility.

Let’s delve into the history and significance of PRS factories.

1. PRS Maryland Factory – Stevensville

The PRS Maryland Factory, nestled in Stevensville on Kent Island, Maryland, serves as the core of the PRS brand.

Paul Reed Smith made his first guitar as an extra credit project while attending St. Mary’s College in Maryland. He got an A, and then Smith decided to follow his dream and make guitars for a living.

After attending his first Winter NAMM show in January 1985 with a small selection of guitars, Smith returned to Annapolis, Maryland and moved into the PRS Virginia Ave factory. In four months, a small team of less than 15 people began making 20 custom guitars.

The first production serial-numbered instrument came off the line in August 1985. And on June 27th, 1986 PRS celebrated “The Night of the 1,000 Guitar Party.”

In 1996, PRS Guitars moved to a new building across the Chesapeake Bay on Kent Island. The new 20,000 square foot facility provides spacious production space and a seamless workflow for PRS’s growing family of craftsmen.

That same year, Paul Smith, Joe Knaggs, and a small team of talented luthiers began creating custom guitars for musicians through the Private Stock program. A small but very talented team at Private Stock, constantly striving to create the best guitars you can buy.

By 1996 PRS hired its 100th employee. Today, PRS has approximately 355 employees serving in a wide range of critical roles including production, research and development, sales, marketing, artist relations, customer service, supply chain and more.

As sales and production increased, PRS again required additional manufacturing space and equipment to meet demand. Groundbreaking began in 2006, and the second phase of the PRS Guitars Stevensville factory was completed in 2008. The new building added 90,000 sq. feet of industrial and office space.

Since its initial setup, the factory has seen significant expansions and upgrades to accommodate the company’s growth, the introduction of new product lines, and the integration of innovative manufacturing techniques.

The factory is a blend of traditional workbenches where artisans handcraft elements of the guitars and high-tech sections equipped with machinery like CNC (Computer Numerical Control) routers, which precision-cut the guitar bodies and necks.

One of the treasures of the factory, the PRS Wood Library stocks a range of tonewoods, from the more traditional mahoganies and maples to exotic varieties. Here, experts select and match woods for optimal tonal quality and aesthetics.

PRS guitars are known for their stunning finishes. The finishing department ensures each guitar stands out. The finishes are applied with care, with multiple stages of sanding and buffing to achieve the iconic PRS gleam.

The electronics & assembly department ensures that the pickups, potentiometers, switches, and other electronic components are installed and tested. The PRS-patented tremolo system and tuners are also added during this phase.

Before any PRS guitar leaves the factory, it undergoes rigorous quality control checks. Skilled technicians play and inspect each instrument, adjusting the action, intonation, and ensuring it meets PRS’s high standards.

Many employees at the Maryland factory have been with the company for decades. This longevity fosters a deep-seated commitment to the brand and its values.

PRS has, for many years, offered guided tours of the Maryland factory. These tours provide enthusiasts a chance to witness the birth of a PRS guitar, understanding the craftsmanship and dedication behind each instrument.

2. World Musical Instrument Co. Factory – Korea

World Musical Instrument Co. Ltd., located in Incheon, South Korea, played a significant role in the history of PRS guitars, particularly in making the brand more accessible to a broader audience.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, PRS had firmly established itself as a premium guitar manufacturer. However, the brand saw the need to provide high-quality instruments at a more affordable price point, catering to beginners, intermediates, and professionals seeking cost-effective alternatives.

In 2000, PRS introduced the SE (Student Edition) series. While they were designed by PRS in Maryland, the actual production was outsourced to Korea. This strategy allowed PRS to offer the signature look and feel of their guitars but at a fraction of the cost of their American-made counterparts.

PRS’s choice of the World Musical Instrument Co. wasn’t arbitrary. This particular factory had garnered a reputation for producing high-quality instruments for various international brands. Their capability to maintain consistent quality at volume made them an ideal partner for PRS’s vision for the SE line.

Despite the overseas production, PRS ensured that the guitars produced under the SE banner maintained a standard befitting the brand’s reputation. This involved rigorous quality control measures, regular visits by PRS representatives, and continuous collaboration between PRS’s Maryland team and the Korean factory.

Over the years, the factory produced some of the most popular SE models, including the SE Custom, SE Singlecut, and various signature models like the SE Tremonti and SE Santana.

As the demand for PRS guitars grew and as global manufacturing dynamics shifted, PRS began to diversify its SE production beyond Korea. This led to some SE models being produced in other countries, including Indonesia. However, the foundation and initial success of the SE line can largely be attributed to the collaboration with the World Musical Instrument Co.

3. Indonesian Factories

As PRS sought to diversify its production to meet global demands, it expanded its operations to Indonesian factories. This move was both strategic and practical, as Indonesia has increasingly become a hub for quality guitar manufacturing over the past couple of decades.

Indonesia, particularly in regions like Java, has seen a surge in guitar and musical instrument production. Many established brands began shifting certain production lines to Indonesian factories due to the combination of skilled labor, cost-effectiveness, and improving quality standards.

PRS’s SE guitars, which started in Korea, was designed to bring PRS quality at a more affordable price point. As the SE line expanded in terms of models and demand, PRS began to look for additional production avenues, leading them to Indonesian facilities.

In 2019, a dedicated facility was opened in Surabaya, Indonesia.

PRS will quickly outgrow this factory, opening another new dedicated facility with greater capacity in 2022.

The Indonesian factories primarily focused on producing specific models of the SE line, allowing PRS to distribute production, meet global demands efficiently, and maintain quality across all SE instruments.

Similar to their partnership in Korea with World Musical Instrument Co., PRS worked closely with chosen Indonesian factories to ensure their instruments’ consistency and quality.

To guarantee the same PRS quality standard, the brand maintained continuous oversight, with regular checks, factory visits, and strict quality control measures in place.

Whenever a renowned brand shifts or diversifies production, there’s natural skepticism from the consumer base. PRS addressed this by ensuring that the Indonesian-produced guitars maintained the brand’s reputation for quality. Over time, positive reviews and player experiences dispelled concerns.